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Just over 13 months after the inaugural LongTail Rally of 2021, rally organizers kicked off the second LongTail Rally amidst the stunning skyline of San Francisco. Gathering at the Fairmont Hotel on Mason Street for the opening dinner, and culminating at the Hyatt Regency, Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona one week later, this year’s rally involved more participants, covered more miles and included even more adventures.

Rally organizers Michael Knapp and Julie Milne didn’t need to up their game after the celebrated reaction to the first LongTail Rally, but they kicked things up a notch nonetheless. Where last year’s rally included a trip to BMW’s driving school in Thermal, California, and a visit to Speed Vegas outside Sin City, this year’s drive crossed far more state lines and included off-road safaris, high-altitude tests of man and machine, plus a massive 110-degree pool party and a marriage proposal.

Day 1: San Francisco to Lake Tahoe
The 2022 LongTail Rally kicked off in the City by the Bay with 35 high-end exotic cars, ranging from a Ferrari F12 to a Lamborghini Aventador Roadster to a McLaren 765LT. My ride was a bright yellow 2019 Acura NSX loaned to me by the good folks at Acura. The parking garage at the Fairmont looked like a giant bowl of Skittles candy after everyone checked in, an effect that was recreated when rally participants assembled in front of the hotel the next morning for our first day’s run to Lake Tahoe.

Winding our way through the streets of San Francisco, then across the Bay Bridge and northeast past Sacramento provided increasingly pleasing scenery as we left the multi-lane freeways and entered the twists and turns of Tahoe National Forest. But it was the final hours coming into, and around, Lake Tahoe that proved breathtaking, with elevated views of the glassy water in McKinney and Rubicon Bay. Our evening accommodations at Edgewood Tahoe offered still more pleasing lake views and easy access.

Day 2: Lake Tahoe to Salt Lake City
The Tahoe to Salt Lake City run was one of the longer driving days, with Interstate 80 the most direct and efficient route. That meant sustained highway speeds with more great scenery. It also provided a photo opportunity at the Bonneville Salt Flats, where the LongTail Rally cars’ bright colors presented a stark contrast to the legendary white salt where so many speed records have been set and subsequently broken. Given the potential for unwanted “under-coating” on any vehicle that ventures on to the salt, we kept our cars safely on the pavement bordering the flats.

This was also the fist time I noticed the benefits of my Acura NSX rally car with a highly fuel-efficient drivetrain. With 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque, generated by a 3.5-liter V6 engine and three electric motors, the NSX was delivering a solid 20-plus miles per gallon when driven at consistent highway speeds. Of course aggressive driving could lower that number substantially, but at any given speed or driving level the NSX fared better than many of the rally cars driven in a similar fashion. It also swallowed long distances in a completely painless manner, with the NSX’s “Quiet” driving mode living up to its name when engaged.

Day 3: Salt Lake City to Vail
The drive from the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake to the Park Hyatt in Vail/Beaver Creek was another long driving day, but far more varied than the previous day’s I80 route. Using route 40 to cross into Colorado at the town of Dinosaur, then on to Rangely and Colorado route 139 to Grand Junction quickly illustrated the breadth of geography offered by the Centennial State. The rising and falling elevation changes along twisting two-lane roads gave rally participants a front row seat to scenes in this country too few Americans ever experience.

Driving these roads would be a feast for the eyes in any vehicle, but when the windshield and rearview mirrors of your “Spa Yellow” NSX are filled with a “Guard Red” Porsche 911, ‘Ludas Blue” McLaren 720S, “Verde Shock Green” Lamborghini Huracan Performante, and a “San Marino Blue” BMW M4 (among others), it dials the visuals up to 11. It’s this confluence of forces — discovering new roads and absorbing new landscapes, all in the company of fellow enthusiasts — that powers an event like LongTail Rally while searing the images and experience into your lifetime hard drive. At some point all any of us have is memories, so you better have some good ones…

Day 4: Chill Day in Vail
You can’t have a rally known for “chill” without an official chill day. So we got one in Vail. But chill does not mean boring, as we experienced multiple hours of off-road adventure riding Honda Pioneer 1000 side-by-side ATVs on the mountain peaks above Vail. With over 20,000 acres of land, encompassing everything from grassy fields to forests of Aspen trees to rocky trail climbs, the Sage Outdoor Adventure group led us on an unfiltered tour of the Rockies. Everyone knows Colorado for winter skiing, but if you haven’t experienced these mountains in the summer you are missing out.

Day 5: Vail to Colorado Springs
The route from Vail to Colorado Springs was arguably the most picturesque of the entire rally. Traveling along state route 24 we drove through constant elevation shifts while passing Leadville, Granite, Buena Vista, and Manitou Springs before crossing through the Garden of the Gods and arriving at the Broadmoor Hotel. Any of these spots would have been worthy of day long side trip, but we had to save our strength for the ultimate high-altitude adventure awaiting us the next morning.

Sadly, this was the only section where the NSX suffered any cosmetic damage, as a rock chip impacted the windshield almost dead center just as we entered eastbound I70 out of Vail. The relatively low speed we were traveling, and the lack of any large trucks in front of us, reminded me how these things can happen at any time. And while the NSX was wearing paint protective film on its forward-facing surfaces it didn’t have any windshield film to prevent this type of damage. One of the LongTail Rally’s primary sponsors is Protective Film Solutions (PFS) out of Orange County, and I suddenly wished I’d asked them for a windshield film application before the event.

Day 6: Pikes Peak to Santa Fe
As we prepared to exit the Rockies our LongTail Rally hosts had one more thin-air adventure planned — an early-morning hill climb up famous Pikes Peak. Home to both two-and four-wheeled motorsports competition for over 100 years, the 12-mile route climbs nearly 10,000 feet, with current record holders traversing its 156 turns in less than 10 minutes. Our group didn’t try to set any records, but we did discover what happens when you ascend nearly two miles into the atmosphere along twisting pavement — in less than 30 minutes. The naturally-aspirated among us, both humans and vehicles, were literally and figuratively gasping for air at the 14,115-foot peak.

However, the turbocharged, supercharged, and — in the NSX’s case — turbocharged and electric-powered, were doing just fine. The views at the top of Pikes Peak are hard to describe, but let’s just say if you’ve ever wanted to see the curvature of the earth without the aid of a plane (or space ship), this is the place to be. And if you’re sensitive to altitude sickness, be careful, and maybe consider having someone else drive. Personally, I loved the drive up and enjoyed walking (and even running) around up top. But if you didn’t grow up in Colorado you might not feel the same.

After coming back down to earth the rally stopped at Porsche Colorado Springs to catch our breath, enjoy some breakfast, and peruse the dealership’s vast array of new, used and classic Porsche models. Porsche Colorado Springs is a Premier Porsche dealer, and with two dedicated showrooms along with plenty of service and support space it’s clear why. A brand new, dark blue Cayman 718 GTS was calling my name, so I went outside and sat in the NSX to avoid doing anything rash. From Porsche Colorado Springs we headed to Bishop’s Lodge in Santa Fe along another path of beautiful twisting pavement.

Day 7: Santa Fe to Scottsdale
The sprawling grounds of Bishop’s Lodge provided a relaxing environment after the whirlwind tour that took us up Pikes Peak and down to Santa Fe in less than 12 hours. But the relaxation was interrupted by the Acura NSX’s first mechanical issue — a punctured driver’s side front tire. It must have happened as we were pulling into the lodge, because there was no TPS warning as we parked the car, yet 2 hours later people were texting me photos of the flat tire from the parking lot.

What could have been a major killjoy was quickly solved by one Alex Choi. This is the same Alex Choi that attended the previous year’s rally in a bright pink 720S. This time around Alex was piloting an even brighter Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo with a twin-turbocharged V10 making over 1,200 horsepower. While Alex’s car was among the brightest stars of the rally, Alex remained eternally chill and friendly, perfectly representing the spirit of the LongTail Rally.

This demeanor was obvious even before Alex leapt into action with a tire repair kit after he heard about the NSX’s flat. Alex removed the offending screw from the NSX’ tire and plugged it while I sat in the Acura, holding the steering wheel hard to the left to give him access to the puncture. What looked like a potential rally ender was resolved in under an hour, further illustrating Alex’s good will and the dominant vibe of LongTail Rally.
With the tire pressure monitoring screen front-and-center in the NSX’s adjustable gauge cluster we made the drive to Scottsdale without incident. The final run from Payson to Scottsdale was one of the best driving roads on the rally, making it an appropriate last leg of our paved adventure that started in San Francisco 7 days earlier.

Day 8: Pool Party and Final Dinner
After hitting a low of 45 degrees at the top of Pikes Peak the temperature had been creeping ever upwards between Colorado Springs, Santa Fe, and Scottsdale. By the time we got to the Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch for the final pool party the outside temp was approaching 110 degrees, making every LongTail Rally participant grateful for the X Comp Tires-sponsored pool party. After more than a week and 3,000 miles together the pool party felt like a graduation and reunion all rolled into one.